Sunday, March 2, 2014

Why is my cat scooting and/or licking their rear end?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

If your cat is actively and frequently licking their anal area, your cat is trying to tell you there is a problem!  While many people think that their pet may have worms, this is actually an uncommon cause for anal irritation.  Other possible reasons for an irritated rear end include diarrhea, constipation, a wound, a tumor, or most commonly, an anal gland/sac problem.  A visit with your cat at your veterinarian's office can help determine the source of the issue. 

What are anal glands? 
Anal glands are tiny sacs, located just inside of the anus in the rectum, that are normally filled with some amount of a tan colored, odorous fluid, which is expressed through small ducts during a bowel movement.  This fluid may also be released abruptly due to fear or by scooting the read end on the floor. 

What happens with anal gland disease? 
Some cats do not seem to express their anal glands properly when they defecate.  Although there may be no true disease, the cat feels discomfort which leads to licking or scooting.  This discomfort can be relieved by anal gland expression, a procedure performed at your veterinarian's office. 

Abnormal anal gland fluid is thick, colored yellow-green, or bloody.  Irregular anal gland fluid color indicates an infection that requires treatment by your veterinarian.

Sometimes the gland can become impacted, which means the anal gland fluid cannot escape through the duct.  Impaction seems to happen as a result of thick, granular material becoming lodged in the duct, therefore blocking it.  If the impaction is caught early, your veterinarian can manually express the material out of the sac. 

If the impaction is not found soon enough, an abscess will form, causing a large bulge, which can eventually rupture the anal sac.  When an abscess forms, your cat will likely have a fever, causing lethargy and a decreased appetite.  If the gland ruptures, there will be noticeable wetness, that is red or yellow-green in color.  Most cats will need to be sedated and be given pain medication for successful treatment at this stage of the disease.

How do I prevent anal gland issues?
For some cats, a food change to a high fiber, grain free, or limited ingredient diet can help prevent future anal gland flareups.  Other cats require intermittent anal gland expression by your veterinarian.

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